Monday, November 16, 2015

The Wedding Chapel

Taylor smiled. "Guess that's it for now." Then she heard it - the whoosh-thump. The sounds of a heart's chambers. She tossed Coach a visual. Their gazes met and she knew. He'd heard it too.
"Do you think buildings have a soul, Taylor?" He jutted out his square chin where a soft dusting of white whiskers caught the light.
"A soul?" she said, raising her gaze to the ceiling. "I reckon not. Only humans have souls. But I suppose an old building just might have a heart." She tossed it out there waiting for him to respond, to confess he head it too.
He nodded and turned for the door. "You ready? I'll lock her up."
In the yard, Taylor bid Coach a good day and climbed behind the wheel of the Lincoln.
Coach could not, must not sell this place. Because Taylor innately understood any change of hands would end a dream that somehow still yearned to live. And the key of that dream was buried in the heart of one sweet old coach.

Book: The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck, Zondervan, 2015

Genre: Romance
Target Audience: Women 19+
Subjects: Faith, Hope, Love
Summary: Do dreams ever really die? Two couples, two generations, both dreaming of love. Neither is sure they have found it or ever will find it. Jack and Taylor married six months ago. What were they thinking? Neither one knows much about love or marriage. Jack was a foster care kid, shifted from home to home. Taylor’s sister just got a divorce. The inability to hang on to a marriage seems to run in her family. Yet they married, but maybe not wisely. “Coach” Jimmy Westbrook built a monument to love sixty years ago. It was a beautiful wedding chapel for the woman he wanted to make his bride. The war came and a deceiver successfully tore them apart. Now the time has come to consider letting the dream die once and for all. He’s old and someone wants to pay him good money to buy his property. Maybe he should just be done with it once and for all. But in that chapel beats a steady heartbeat, reminding all who hear that maybe dreams don’t have to die. Maybe Someone is great enough to restore and heal what has been broken. Maybe love really can come, even to those who aren’t sure they believe.
Notes: The Wedding Chapel is a bit of a change for author, Rachel Hauck. It’s not as light-hearted as her previous books. This one almost seems depressing in the beginning as she paints a vivid picture of how hopeless all of the characters are. Every single one of the four main characters has nearly given up all hope of finding real, lasting love. They are also letting their faith in God fall by the wayside as well, not sure how much to believe in that love. But slowly, bit by bit she brings hints of hope into the character’s lives, ending with the characters finding faith and hope and believing in love again. My favorite scene is when one of Jack’s foster father’s explains just how loved Jack truly is and was – both by his foster parents and his Heavenly Father. It’s a moment of the truth being revealed and the way the author uses the foster father to reveal the truth is beautifully done. I highly recommend this story, especially for anyone who was struggled with doubting that real, genuine love can come to them, or even exists at all.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Corinthians 13:13  - Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Berenstain Bears Get Saved

Berenstain Bears Get Saved!
Since 1962 children have grown up reading books about a family of bears, particularly two cubs that get into mischief. Children learn lessons right along with the bears. But that was all. It stopped at teaching good morals.
That has changed though. Zonderkidz is now publishing Berenstain Bears books that actually teach Scriptural values! Titles such as “The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School” or “The Berenstain Bears And The Golden Rule” are now what you can expect from the series!

Here are summaries of some of their new books. As always, thanks to the publisher for providing me with free review copies in exchange for my honest opinion! I appreciate it!

Here are a few new Berenstain Bears books for your enjoyment! The best part about these is the abundance of Scripture used in them! Good morals are nice, but so much better is when it has a strong foundation, a reason for those morals!

Summer is winding down and school time is fast approaching. Brother, Sister and Honey are all very unsure how to feel about it. There are some nerves influencing their excitement. Honey will be going for the first time and is worried about missing her parents. Brother is worried about math. Sister is worried about history. Their parents open the Bible and teach them that they can always rely on God and turn to Him in prayer, asking for strength and guidance. They recite Psalm 34:4 to the cubs. When the cubs come home with homework that worries them, Papa leads the family in praying for strength and help. At the end, their parents open the Bible again and teach them Philippians 4:13. The book also has Proverbs 1:5 printed on the copyright page.

Firefighters, police, drivers, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, watchmakers, engineers, scientists, singer, astronaut, environmentalist, farmer – there are so many possible careers to choose from! Brother and Sister Bear walk all over town observing the different jobs being done and discuss what they might pursue when they grow up. They note that their parents have taught them that everyone has a God given special talent to do a job and help others. When they look at the job of farmer they refer to it as using “God’s good land”. They do lack an element of seeking God’s will – it is put in terms of “the choice is up to you”. There isn’t an turning to God to seek what He wants for them. It’s just a quick overview at lots of different possible jobs to give kids a start on dreaming of their future. The book has Matthew 5:16 printed on the title page.

Clubs are great fun! Cub Club goes on picnics, plays sports, participates in the arts, and puts up holiday decorations. They also seek to help others though. Preacher Brown, the leader of the club says “it is a good thing to help those in need” and quotes Proverbs 14:31 to them. They get a chance to go way out of their way to help someone in need when a flood hits part of Bear Country. They trek out with the adults to help rescue those trapped by the flood and put down sandbags to try to divert the water. Then they go back to the chapel where Preacher Brown tells the story of Noah and the cubs spot a reminder of the story in the sky when the rain is done. Preacher Brown also gives credit to God for keeping them safe and sound and gives credit to the cub club for helping with the flood. The book has 1 Thessalonians 5:15 printed on the title page.

(See earlier review further down page)

Sister is fine with listening to gossip about others in school until the day she overhears her friends gossiping about her! Suddenly gossip doesn’t make her feel “special” or “in the know”. Her understanding actually starts at home when one of her parents makes a comment about someone and the other parent points out that it’s gossip. Her Mama explains what gossip is and quotes Proverbs 16:28. She chooses to ignore the stirrings of guilt and not think about it until she hears she friends gossiping about her. Sister confronts her friends by randomly shouting rude things about them to others around and finally all the friends agree to stop gossiping. Cousin Fred quotes James 3:6. The book has Proverbs 26:20 printed on the title page.

Brother and Sister are quite talented. There is a whole list of things they can do. The result of their talent is that they each feel super proud of themselves and are always trying to out-do the other one. Their bragging about their talents and skills and achievements gets out of control. Their parents attempt to get them to stop. Papa Bear quotes 1 Corinthians 13:4. The cubs don’t listen though until the day their grandpa catches them having a bragging contest about imagining designs in the clouds. He points out just how foolish their argument is and how out of control their bragging has become. He quotes Proverbs 13:10 to them. This time the cubs finally get it and make an effort to stop bragging. The book has James 3:5 printed on the title page.

 The Berenstain Bears' Easter Sunday

This book tells the story of the cubs family as they go through their day one year at Easter. It focuses a lot of the "why" things are done. Why are festive clothes worn? Why does the church tell Bible stories? Why do people celebrate Easter with eggs? And is it ok to use jelly beans to celebrate Easter? While in church the book states that the preacher tells the story of Easter, sort of listing the events and the pictures below show four scenes of the four events listed. It doesn't go into any detail at all in the story. It just makes reference to it and the importance it has to the cubs. Papa's prayer at dinner also references it as He thanks the Lord for "the greatest love of all that came to us on that first Easter Sunday, long ago". The discussion questions and activities are very good. One of the questions is "What does it mean to say that Jesus has risen from the dead?". And the activity children are encouraged to do is making paper dolls to tell the story of Easter.

This board book is ideal for the littlest ones. It tells stories of creation, Noah, David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Jesus’ birth, the Good Samaritan, the Triumphal Entry and then Jesus resurrection followed by a page on the Great Commission.

Annoying, dirty, unkempt neighbors. The kind no one wants around. Especially Mama Bear. She takes pride in how nice their home and neighborhood are and the Bogg brothers are a disgrace. But when the Bear family is in trouble, it’s not the mayor or the rich neighbor who help, it’s the Bogg brothers. So The Berenstain Bears experience the idea of the Good Samaritan for themselves. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

A school play puts the girl from the cool kids gang starring with a boy from what would be considered the geeks. Trouble starts brewing and erupts first on the playground, and then finally in the midst of the play itself. Romeo and Juliet becomes real as the two sides erupt in battle against one another. When the mediator steps up to make peace in both situations, Scripture is quoted to tell others how to behave. The standard for behavior is taken straight from Scripture. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

It’s fall and the leaves are changing colors, pumpkins are growing and the land is beautiful. The bear family is thankful for all the beauty. To celebrate they attend the Harvest Festival at a local farm. Most of the book is focused on simple enjoyment of the activities of the festival and the beauty of the land. One section though shows Brother Bear saying that “mother nature is putting on a good show for us” and Mother Bear saying that “mother nature works for someone a bit higher up.” And Papa Bear tells them that harvest time is about more than enjoying the season, it is also a time to give thanks to God. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

Freddy Factual has a telescope and he shares it with Brother and Sister Bear. Seeing items from space is super exciting for the cubs. But when Sister Bear makes a comment about God, Freddy questions it. That leaves Brother and Sister Bear with some questions of their own. A talk with Preacher Brown, where they learn about Daniel and faith clears up some things for them. They aren’t sure of everything, but they find comfort in the assurance that they can have faith in God, even when questions arise. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

There are multiple reasons the cubs know that God loves them. Their parents assure them of it, they hear it in church, the Bible tells them, and they see evidence of it in the world around them. The question is whether or not God loves everyone. They get the chance to ask the question when a cub their age with special needs comes to visit them. He isn’t able to comprehend the same things others his age can. He acts more like the age of their toddler sister. Their mom explains that God loves everyone and has made them all unique. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

Brother and Sister Bear want to hear a story and their dad tells them the story of the very first Christmas. With bears playing the characters in the illustrations, the story takes children through the story of the first Christmas – from the angel’s appearance to Mary to Mary and Joseph leaving Egypt to head to Nazareth where Jesus grew up. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights)

Cooking with children can be a great delight! Kids enjoy spending time in the kitchen learning how to cook with their parents. This is a cookbook of 40 recipes kids can learn to make with the help of adults. It begins with one page of a story and ends with one Bible verse. 

Thank you to Zonderkidz for providing me with a free review copy of these books in exchange for my honest opinion. I am very grateful! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Every Girl Gets Confused

“Want to take a spin around the dance floor, Katie?” Casey took hold of my hand. “For old times’ sake?”
I hesitated, but then Casey tugged me to the center of the dance floor as “Unforgettable” played overhead.
“It’s our son,” Casey whispered in my ear as he pulled me into his arms.
Correction. It used to be our song. Still, as the lyrics rooted themselves in my heart, I found myself caught up in the moment. I settled into Casey’s familiar, comfortable embrace and was whisked back in time to the days when we were young and in love.

Book: Every Girl Gets Confused: A Novel (Brides with Style) by Janice Thompson, Revell Publishers, 2015

Genre: Romance
Subjects: Identity, Trust in God, Love, Family Relationships, Prayer
Target Audience: Adult Women
Summary: What’s a girl to do when the man she was in the process of falling in love with seems distracted and moody and isn’t really showing signs of wanting to continue pursuing her and her former boyfriend from childhood, the one who dumped her instead of proposing is now showing signs of wanting to pursue her again? Katie really did think she was falling in love with Brady but his knee injury and the accompanying inability to play professional basketball seems more important to him these days and he’s not letting her in. Meanwhile, between the holidays and the wedding for her grandmother as well as the preparations for the wedding keep giving her opportunities to see Casey who is back in Fairfield and being attentive again. That’s not the extent of her problems though. Business is going great at the bridal store in Dallas – too good. They have more customers than they can handle, including some they don’t want. Then there’s her parents, particularly her mother who expects her to hurry up and be done pursuing any dream that takes her out of Fairfield. And somehow, Katie finds herself caught up in the drama of all the other romances around her, those of her brothers, co-workers and aunt. Is it any wonder she’s confused?
Notes: Janice Thompson is known for her “comical romances” as she puts it. Her books feature characters with large crazy families – usually with strong demanding parents with expectations for their grown daughter that differ from the life she is almost accidentally carving for herself. The author is often creating comical scenes as the characters interact. Each book features older women who almost exist just to provide comedy to the story, but also spiritual encouragement at times the main character needs it most. This is the second in the Brides With Style series. Katie is a small town girl who accidentally finds herself working in a bridal shop in Dallas and falling in love with the owner’s son. The comical characters are her grandmother and grandmother’s sister. In this book Katie is struggling with doubts about her love for Brady and her decision to move on from Casey. She faces the temptation to let doubt ruin her relationship. There is also the spiritual issue of Brady struggling with finding his identity now that his career as a professional basketball player is at least temporarily over. He and Katie are both encouraged to find their identity in Christ rather than anything else.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 1:5-6 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Can Read - Bible Stories

High Interest Stories For Developing Readers”
“Simple Sentences For Eager New Readers”
“Ideal For Sharing With Emergent Readers”

Doesn’t this sound like what you want for your kid/s? You go to the library, browse the shelves and pull out all the leveled reader books on your child’s level. Biscuit, Fancy Nancy, Pony Scouts, Amelia Bedelia, the latest Disney books, animal fact books… and Bible Stories!

Thanks to Zonderkidz, basic Bible stories are in leveled reader form. If your library doesn’t have them, just request them. They fit right in amongst the other leveled readers. The Zonderkidz books are part of the I Can Read! Leveled Readers.

The nature of the I Can Read! leveled readers is books with bigger text, common sight words and vocabulary pertaining to the story. It does not focus on basic phonics skills, so it isn’t ideal for brand new beginners, more for those who have already developed a little bit in their reading skills. In this series, the vocabulary that would be hard to read is the Bible names, objects and places. It basically gives your children the opportunity to turn Bible words into common sight words. 

Each book contains:
-         A Bible verse
-         A summarized Bible Story written for children
-         Colorful cartoon illustrations

And the "Adventure Bible" series contains extra notes and things to think about in the back. Sometimes it's an application question, sometimes it's a summary of characters or how to pronounce a name. Sometimes it's a key verse to think on or memorize. 

 Here are new I Can Read Adventure Bible stories I got for review:

Joseph The Dreamer - the story of Joseph - all the way from the point of his father giving him the coat of many colors to Jacob and the family moving to Egypt. It carefully skips over the part with Potiphar's wife saying only that the rich man Joseph was sold to threw him in jail even though he had not done anything wrong. It includes the quote from Genesis 50 when Joseph's brothers are afraid of him where Joseph says "What you meant for evil, God used for good to save us all." (Although the quote is taken out of context - in Scripture it doesn't happen until the death of Jacob, in the story it happens right when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.)  

Facing The Blazing Furnace -
  the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzer's statue. What I like best about this one is that it includes the quote from Scripture where they said "God is able to rescue us but even if He does not, we will not worship the statue." It's what makes these 3 heroes of the Bible great role models for kids - they knew that God doesn't always spare the lives of His followers. Sometimes bad things happen to them. We can still trust and follow God with confidence though.
 - the story of Ruth and her faithfulness to her mother-in-law. It tells how, after the death of her husband, instead of staying in her own land, she went to Israel with Naomi, gleaned in the fields to provide for the two of them and then married Boaz and became the great-grandmother of King David.

Here are some of the other titles in this series:
Psalm 79:1-7 – O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old-- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of some of these in exchange for my honest opinion!

Thursday, October 1, 2015


This is the first children’s book I have reviewed, so I’m a little unsure of the best format to use. A detailed description of the content and notes on the ideas conveyed doesn’t seem to fit such a short story. So for now, I’m simply going to share my thoughts on this book. 

Book: Thankful written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Archie Preston, Zonderkidz, 2015

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 2-10
Subjects: Thankfulness
Summary & Notes: Adorable! That’s the best word to describe the picture book Thankful written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Archie Preston. The author takes the reader through a day in the life of a family, showing what they are thankful for. It’s not just an ordinary family though. The children have great imagination and pretend to be a number of different professions and we get to see what each profession would be thankful for. Archie Preston draws beautiful illustrations of the kids, showing exactly what they are imagining. One of the things I appreciate about this book is that the ideas are not overly simple. For example, one of the pages says “The dancer is thankful. She loves the beat that stirs her heart and hips and feet.” It has cute little rhymes for each idea expressed. I like how it conveys gratitude to God for more than objects.
This not-so-simple picture book is one I can definitely recommend to children and their parents!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Angels - A 90 Day Devotional

Angels are described in terms of light and lightning, gemstones and flames. Tales of their visits put a flutter in our hearts and a sense of awe in our souls. And why not? Their arrival has always been seen as a sign of God at work, a signal that life is about to take a dramatic turn.

Book: Angels: A 90-Day Devotional about God's Messengers by Christa Kinde, Zonderkidz, 2015

Genre: Devotional/Bible Study

Target Audience: Boys and Girls 10-16

Subjects: Angels, Biblical History

Summary: Angels, demons, vampires, aliens, unicorns, dragons. They inspire the curiosity in us, make us ask “Would what it be like if it were real? If I truly encountered one?”. Most of the things in that list aren’t real. They are fantasy, legends. Some are real things but far more ordinary and simple than the legends about them. Not so with angels. They are very real and every bit as awe-inspiring as the legends say. In fact, they are much more impressive than often given credit for. Rather than being a cute baby with wings, angels are powerful beings created to serve God. They are warriors, messengers, and His servants to do His bidding, whether it be to announce a new life or destroy a life. This devotional gives you ninety days of exploring exactly what angels truly are – and what they aren’t. Answering common questions or discussing popular ideas, the author presents a Bible verse, gives a short discussion, more verses to help answer the question or explain the idea, then gives a few thought provoking questions or further Scripture to study.

Notes: Christa Kinde is the author of speculative fiction series speculating on what it would be like if a person could identify the angels around and have friendships with them. In this devotional, she steps away from the “what if” and looks at what the Bible actually says about angels – the facts. She’s not afraid of any of the questions of myths, but answers them with honesty and backs up her answers with Scripture. One great example is the question of how many angels they are. The page reads like this:

Q: Are there angels?

A: Yes.
Q: How many?

A: A lot

Q: Can you be more specific?

A: Only as specific as Scripture gets. Take a look at these verses:

Then she proceeds to give three verses discussing how many angels, then explains that in Greek, the largest number was 10,000. “So the people who wrote about the heavenly host pulled the biggest number they knew, then told us to multiply it. Are there millions, billions, trillions? Only God knows. But we do know that those who caught a glimpse of heaven’s angels ended up with boggled minds. Words failed. Numbers fell short. It’s beyond our understanding…. beyond our imagining… and entirely real.”

I highly recommend this as either a devotional or a Bible Study. The “Dig a little deeper” section at the end of each devo allows for it to be explored further. Also, each lesson is meant to have at least a hint of application, giving the reader something to consider for their own life.

Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5

Enjoyment Scale: 5/5

Reviewer: J:-)mi

Luke 2:9 – An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I enjoyed it!